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RERUN REVIEW: Doctor Who 2×001 – “Planet of the Giants”

The first adventure of the second season of Doctor Who is a strange one. It begins, not uncharacteristically, with the TARDIS experiencing some sort of problem. The Doctor (William Hartnell) manages to land the ship and decides that he, Susan (Carole Ann Ford), Ian (William Russell), and Barbara (Jacqueline Hill) may as well explore outside and get some fresh air before fixing the TARDIS. Someone, of course, should tell the Doctor by now that this never ends well, but they leave anyway.

They discover a giant dead earthworm not far from the TARDIS, as well as other giant dead insects. They soon figure out that the insects aren’t giants; they’ve all shrunk to about an inch in height due to the TARDIS’ malfunction. Before they can get back to the TARDIS, however, Ian falls into a matchbox and is picked up by a normal-sized man named Farrow (Frank Crawshaw). It turns out Farrow is a scientist who has created a new insecticide, but it works too well. It kills everything it touches, including insects beneficial to agriculture. Farrow meets with Forester (Alan Tilvern), an industrialist who looks to make millions off the new insecticide. Farrow protests, saying it has to be completely remade, but Forester doesn’t want to wait. He kills Farrow and, with the help of his aide, Smithers (Reginald Barratt), hides Farrow’s body.

The Doctor and his companions hear and discover all of this, but how can they uncover a murder plot and stop Forester from unleashing the deadly insecticide on the world when they’re all only an inch tall? What follows is a series of scenes on impressive sets (giant phones, matchbooks, sinks, etc.) that do a great job in helping the actors appear small (especially the giant sink). There is a subplot of Barbara being exposed to the insecticide and slowly becoming more and more ill as the plot moves along; but, for reasons never explained, Barbara never reveals to her friends that she’s been exposed. As a result, Jacqueline Hill doesn’t have much to do in this adventure other than look worried. Another part of the plot you can’t help but wonder about is why Barbara and Ian never mention that they’ve finally returned to modern-day England (albeit in tiny form) or ask the Doctor to leave them there once they fix the TARDIS and their height problem.

The adventure is three episodes, but was originally supposed to be four until it was decided to edit the last two episodes together to tighten the plot. As a result, the show’s producers had an extra slot to fill in the programming schedule and had to make a prelude episode for a future adventure I’ll cover later.

I can’t help but wonder if Irwin Allen saw this and took some of the idea for his 1968 show Land of the Giants. That show features astronauts who crash on an Earth-like world where everything is twelve times the size it is on Earth. The crew of the Spindrift must figure out a way to dodge giant people and animals while attempting to repair their ship.

Up next is an adventure featuring the return of a fan-favorite enemy of the Doctor!

Do you remember the “Planet of the Giants” episodes? What are your thoughts on it or classic Doctor Who? Leave us a comment below or on Twitter!

About the author

Nik Havert